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September National Policy Update

Last week, the House of Representatives passed several mental health and suicide prevention bills, including the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act (S.2661), the HERO Act (H.R.1646), the Suicide Prevention Lifeline Improvement Act (H.R.4564), the Campaign to Prevent Suicide Act (H.R.4585), and the Suicide Prevention Act (H.R.5619). The bill, which will designate a new 9-8-8 number and provide a funding mechanism for implementation of the number, is a major victory and has the potential to modernize the mental health crisis response system.

In July, the Federal Communications Commission unanimously voted in favor of an order to begin technical changes to route calls from 9-8-8 to the Lifeline and gives telecommunications companies two years to fully implement the number. Our national office looks forward to working with affiliates to ensure an equitable and robust prevention and crisis response system to accompany the new number. MHA will be developing additional talking points and materials to support affiliates in that effort in the coming months.

With just a handful of legislative days left before the November 3rd elections, the House and Senate continue to work on a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government-funded. The CR is expected to last until December 11th. As of this writing, the Leadership of both Houses of Congress and the White House have not agreed on the terms for the CR because of disagreements on what provisions would accompany the extension of time. It is expected that they will reach an agreement before the end of the month. Unfortunately, emergency COVID relief funds, including resources for mental health and substance use services, will not be included in the CR. We continue to meet with Senate offices to press for emergency relief and are very grateful to affiliates joining us on those calls with Senate Leadership in key states.

As you all have read about the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the end of last week, we at MHA mourn her loss as a champion of women’s rights and access to healthcare. Depending on timing, this could have implications for the Supreme Court’s review of the Affordable Care Act. The Court is scheduled to hear oral argument the week after the election and will decide if the Congressional repeal of the individual mandate means that the entire law is no longer valid. This could have implications for the number of people with health care coverage (through the Exchanges, Medicaid expansion, and commercial plans with protections for those with pre-existing conditions) and the scope of coverage for mental health and substance use services, including parity provisions and essential benefits requirements.

Are you feeling anxious about voting in this November’s general election? There are just a few weeks left to turn in your ballots, and Voto Latino has compiled a list of ways you can safely cast yours, even during the pandemic.

Reposted from MHA National.

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